Tirana, 3 March 2010 - Communities living in Bajza, Shkoder now live in a safer and healthier environment following an environmental cleanup. Bajza, home of the only international railway station in Albania, has been removed from the list of the dangerous environmental hotspots in the country and the Balkan region.
The clean up of environmental ‘hotspots’ from industrial pollution is one of the components of a UN Joint Programme which supports Government efforts to implement key aspects of the National Environmental Strategy (NES), a key test for Albania on the road to EU integration. The Accession Partnership approved in 2007 imparts the responsibility to catalogue and conduct remedial action for all environmental hotspots in the country.
Bajza is a small town (Kastrati Commune) situated in the northern part of Albania, about 15 km from Shkodra city. Bajza was identified along with 9 other environmental hotspots in Albania that required urgent attention in order to halt dangerous risks to human health and the surrounding environment. In the early 1990s an estimated 200 - 250 tons of expired pesticides, industrial chemicals and other materials were dumped in one of the storehouses at Bajza railway station.
An environmental survey conducted by the Joint Programme revealed that of those local residents questioned 53.5 percent had reported symptoms related to hazardous chemicals; while 33.7 percent of participants commented that that local medical doctor had linked health complaints directly to exposure to hazardous chemicals. This included allergies, headaches, respiratory problems and cancer.
Valentin Popaj, the director of Bajza Railway Station is optimistic that a cleaned railway station will also contribute to the economic development of the region: ‘Now that all the chemicals have been taken away from Bajza railway station, the two storehouses, which are among the largest in the Balkans, can be fully utilized to store all the grocery and industrial goods that come from all over Europe’, said Popaj. Mr. Popaj went on to say that thanks to the rehabilitation of the railway station, many job opportunities will be created for the local community.
The environmental cleanup has significantly improved the lives of citizens living in and around the polluted area located on the shore of Shkodra Lake. Awareness raising activities were also conducted in the community. An environmental programme was developed within the school curricula to ensure that the young generation is better informed about the need to safeguard the natural environment. In addition, pilot projects are also improving the waste collection system in Bajza and constructing two composting plants.
Agim Sinani a business man from the area said: ‘I am delighted to see that the area is now free from hazardous chemicals. It is good for our children and for the whole community; many businesses can be developed here. I already have a business plan in place. Teuta, a little girl attending the fourth grade said: ‘Our teacher talked to us about the importance of keeping our environment clean, It is healthy for us—. At school we also learn how to protect our environment and how to save the planet from destruction. We live here. It is my planet too’.
Photo: Hazardous chemicals being removed from Bajza railway station.
The One Environment Joint Programme in Albania. The joint programme is focusing upon the following topics: mainstreaming environment in other sectors’ policies, public awareness, information and participation, environmental impact assessment and strategic environmental assessment, waste management, hot spots, financial and economic instruments, nature protection, climate change and urban development.
The environment programme support Government efforts to implement key aspects of the National Environmental Strategy (NES). It will address critical capacity constraints that would otherwise act as barriers to effective implementation of the NES. The One Environment Joint Programme partners UNDP with UNEP and WHO.
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